Tag Archives: American Airlines

Air California

Long Range Cruise:

Following my nearly ten years of hopping between various airlines my closet was now filling up with underused uniforms. During this period I’d gained some great flying experience to various corners of the globe and decided it was now time to commit to a long-range employment strategy. Fortunately, in 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act came into being.

A few friends from my original class at ONA had found jobs at an interstate airline in California. I was alerted to the fact that the airline was planning to expand beyond the states borders, and would soon be in need of experienced pilots. My good friends sent me an application and helped arrange for an interview with the Director of Operations and Chief Pilot. To these friends I remain, even today, eternally grateful.

Air California hired me to be in their next pilot training class. I was back in New York where I had just finished my tour with Rosenbaum Aviation when the telegram arrived. It read, “Please confirm your attendance for Boeing 737 pilot training class commencing on May 29, 1978.” My new wife and I were ecstatic, we would be moving to Santa Ana in sunny Southern California.

What followed was ten years of full bliss. I became part of a group of employees so dedicated to the success of the airline it is almost beyond description. We were part of a gleeful competition with fellow intrastate airline PSA which was based not far away in San Diego.

The flying was rigorous, we could have as many as eight to ten take offs and landings in a single day shuttling between various destinations within the state. The strategy had an expeditious nature to it, with a challenge to still provide good service to our passengers. We prided ourselves on that. Whatever we could do to beat PSA at its game we tried and in most cases succeeded.

When the economy faltered slightly our management came up with ten minute turnarounds to better utilize our fleet of aircraft. Ten minutes, block in to block out, involved deplaning passengers through the front exit while cabin cleaners boarded through the back cleaning seats and seat-backs as passengers made their way out. Ten minutes later we were taxiing out for departure.

Within a very short while the airline deregulation act took hold. No longer did the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) control airline routes and pricing. It faded into what was referred as its sunset and the industry became a free for all. Air California grabbed a new image and emerged as AirCal and began major expansions in out of state destinations; like Reno, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, and even Chicago O’Hare.

What we needed were more airplanes, more employees, which meant more pilots and the big change for me personally, more Captains. In less than two years I became a Captain again. I would remain in the left seat for the remainder of my flying career. Twenty-five years as a Captain, in a thirty-two year career, is almost virtually unheard of in the industry. I chalk it up to luck and the classic cliché; “being at the right place at the right time.”

I would never experience again the fun I had flying for this little airline. It had personality and style and a dedication of its employees that went beyond typical brand loyalties. Who would have guessed after a major industry shakeout, which had a lot to do with deregulation, some of the major airlines would no longer exist so soon afterwards. Pan Am and Eastern come to mind.

One that remained was American Airlines and in 1987 it chose to acquire our little home grown airline. Life changed again. The opportunity to fly long range wide body aircraft presented itself and I took advantage.

I would soon be flying the oceanic corridors across the North Atlantic again; Paris, London, Milan, Zurich, Stockholm, and Frankfurt, destinations where I took advantage of the layovers by visiting their Art Museums which were to me national treasures. I especially liked Paris. Later I would fly the Pacific enjoying the long haul to Tokyo. Having spent so much time in the finest of art museums one could imagine reignited my artistic interests and I began again educating myself in the craft. All thanks to American Airlines.

It was shortly before American took hold of my flying career that I discovered I had been adopted as a child. A situation I was totally unaware of. That realization set in motion the fervor to find my biological parents. It didn’t take me long.

What followed was a collage of the events as discovery of my birth parents unfolded. The fact that I grew up not far from where my birth mother raised her second and third families I find astounding. I’m sure I walked past her house on many occasions not knowing I had blood relatives living inside. You can’t get more closely related than mother and child unless you are a twin of course.

The Andersen Family

The Andersen Family

taking Telegraph Road east

Elizabeth “Bette” Andersen (my birth Mother) was born on April 1st, 1921 in Independence, Missouri.

Bette’s father Harvey Andersen was the son of Danish immigrants that arrived in this country in the late 1880’s. They settled in the region east of Kansas City (Jackson County), Missouri. Her mother, Elizabeth Giles, was the daughter of Harvey Giles and Emma May Luke. Grandfather Harvey Giles emigrated from Wales in 1884, her grandmother Emma was from Wapello County, Iowa.

The listed occupations of head of household, according to various censuses, were listed as coal miners. Missouri was the first state west of the Mississippi to produce coal commercially, in 1840. By 1881, coal mining had become a major industry in the state, with Missouri coal largely fueling coal-fired locomotives. Once the demand for the high-sulfur coal declined in the mid 1920’s, the family (seeking reliable work) migrated eastward toward the manufacturing industries of Detroit.

Coming together

U.S. Route 24 (US 24), by act of congress, was one of the original designated United States Highways of 1926. It originally ran 1540 miles from Pontiac, Michigan in the east, to Kansas City, Missouri in the west. Independence is an eastern suburb of Kansas City. Our 33rd President, Harry S. Truman, is buried on a hill overlooking US Highway 24 near his Presidential library there.

Until recently I had no idea that my birth mother, Bette Andersen, was born in Independence, Missouri which is near the western terminus of US 24 (Telegraph Road as it was known to us in Michigan). She was laid to rest in 1989 at the very other end of Highway 24 in Farmington Hills, Michigan. During our lifetimes we both unknowingly lived just a few miles apart but within a block of the very same highway. There is something to be said about being born at one end of a major US Highway and your final resting place, it turns out, is located at the other extremity of the very same highway. Yes, there is something to be said about that, I just don’t know what it is that should be said?

At about the same time as the new highway system was put in place (in 1926) a fellow known as Eddie Anderson Stinson Jr., with the help of the area business community incorporated the Stinson Aircraft Company in southwest Detroit. He built what was then called the SM-1 Detroiter at a place called Romulus Field; which later became Wayne-Major Airport and then much later, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport as it is known today.

Late in her teen years Bette, as she was known, was employed by the Stinson Aircraft Company. During this period, in early 1940, she became acquainted with one Harold W. Kuhn. I have no idea how they met but I do know they met and it was probably an intimate sort of meeting. I was born nine months later in Wayne, Michigan. Theirs was a brief relationship, married in July of 1940 and parting a few days before Pearl Harbor in 1941. The intervening period is still somewhat of a mystery to me and there are no records of my whereabouts or care until I show up on the family Hart’s doorstep at 5217 32nd Street in Detroit. At which place my infant driver’s license identity morphed from Ronald Arthur Kuhn to Ronald Arthur Hart.

The Stinson Aircraft Company hasn’t quite left the picture for me… not just yet anyhow.

The burden of children having children is generally heaped upon the young mother to be. Bette, for example, without support either financially or emotionally is left alone to deal with the absence of responsibility by the fathering entity. The father, more often than not, manages to escape. I can’t imagine what it must be like as a young girl to be in a situation where for nine months all you have is hope but knowing full well it isn’t going to be as you dreamed or wished. As for myself, I wish I’d known a father that could have taught me about the responsibilities concerning the fathering of children. I too was a party to children having children in my young life and was responsible for abandoning a young girl left with the sad burden of being unloved. I am not proud of this period in my life and so not in a position to point fingers. My birth father Harold and I, in our younger years, not only looked alike but acted alike in so many ways.

Eddie Anderson Stinson

Eddie Anderson Stinson learned how to fly at the Wright Flying School in Dayton, Ohio in 1911. He died in an airplane accident in 1932 at the Jackson Park Golf Course in Chicago; he was demonstrating one of his Detroiter models that he had flown from Wayne, Michigan. He was 38 years old. He didn’t get to enjoy the success of his company which went on to build over 5000 Stinson aircraft and contributed in large part to the US World War II effort; then later to the general aviation market when many of the pilots trained during the war returned home and wanted to continue flying privately.

A second cousin also named Harold, one of those pilots from the war, came to Detroit, Michigan and purchased one of the new Stinson Aircraft and took me for my first airplane ride. I was of course hooked on becoming a pilot. American Airlines was one of the first Stinson Aircraft customers that put in service several of their models during the 1930’s that included the famous Stinson Tri-Motor. The stories finale shows me retiring, after thirty-two years as an airline pilot, from American Airlines.

Telegraph Road, US 24, the highway that brought the Andersen family to these woods is still there in Dearborn Heights and thriving. I don’t know whether Eddie “Anderson” Stinson was in some way related to my Andersen family roots (or not), but I haven’t yet investigated that possibility. Keeping in mind, we are all in some ways… related.